tv 69th Annual George Polk Awards CSPAN February 21, 2018 4:22am-5:04am EST
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discussed. this is 35 minutes. [background chatter] >> good morning, everyone. thank you for joining us. can you hear me? i am kimberly cline, president of long island university. it is fitting that we are here today in the first amendment lounge of the national press club that is truly representative of the mission of the polk awards. we have so much to be proud of at long island university, from our elite experiential learning programs to our world-class faculty and teachers throughout our university, from the vibrant
heart of brooklyn to the 322-acre campus on long island's gulf coast area one of the longest lasting and proudest honors is to serve as the home of the george polk awards. this year we commemorate our 70th anniversary of the murder of george polk, who played -- paid the ultimate price for reporting truth during the greek civil war as a cbs news correspondent. long island university created a journalism award in 1949 to carry on george polk's legacy. and for 69 years it has honored journalists who deliver original, impactful, and thoughtful work.
it is an award that recognizes a broad range of mediums and stays current with the times, with categories reflecting a range of locations, mediums, and topics. the polk awards have become one of the most prestigious and cherished journalism honors because of the quality and thoughtfulness of men and women who painstakingly judge it. i want to recognize our esteemed panel of advisors. john was a long-term reporter for the new york times. he was a two-time polk winner, and we are proudly serves as our curator for the polk awards. the polk awards have have represented an unbroken chain of the best journalists including bob woodward, walter cronkite, edward r. murrow, christiana amanpour, norman mailer, diane sawyer, seymour hersh, don george and, glenn greenwald, and today's honorees. most importantly the pull awards symbolize our commitment to the american promise of a free press and award us a moment to celebrate the incredible and brave journalists that pursue truth at all costs.
there is an interesting dichotomy between information truth. phones and social media, we have never had more access to more information and yet the truth is more elusive than ever. the polk awards honor truth. our judges painstakingly reviewed 485 submissions this year. many of those stories have shown their potential to be life-changing and even world changing, and each was told because a journalist unraveled a web, sought to tell the truth and compelled us to see it, read it, absorb it. we cannot properly honor the magnitude of their work, the obstacle they have faced in just a single moment. as always we will host a reception at the roosevelt hotel to officially bestow the awards, but in light of the importance of a free press and sacrifice, we will be honoring the 2018 polk award winners and take a moment today to say their names out loud and to honor their work.
before we announce the honorees in the finest tradition of the polk awards, i am pleased to introduce what promises to be a fascinating policy death penalty discussion with journalists working at the highest level and informing the public of one of the most important stories facing our nation, the russian investigation. i'm interested to hear the challenges they face in the work that goes into their find of facts that appears in their bylines with the most important publications. i am honored to invite to the stage greg miller of the washington post, michael s. schmitt of the new york times, and to moderate the discussion, margaret sullivan of the new york times. [applause] margaret: thank you very much. this is a great day, and is especially a great day because i have two wonderful reporters here who usually are in the position of asking the questions, but today i am going
to get to ask them questions. you in the audience are also invited toward the end of our half-hour to jump in with questions of your own. i hope you will. we will get started on the topic of leaks, which i am curious to hear both of you talk about because this past year has been one in which leaks have certainly been at the center of many a news story. i was wondering if you would talk to me and the audience about what you see as this state of reporting through leaked information and what the challenges are and where we are on the, on the trajectory. there were a lot of people who thought that after the obama administration crackdown on
those who leaked and president trump's threats, that things would dry up. that doesn't seem to have happened. michael, i would like to start with you. would you like to talk about how you do your reporting using leaks and a little bit on the process of verification as well? michael: i think the thing that is going on with leaks that's a little different now than certainly anything i've seen in the past -- i have been watching for six years -- is there is a group of folks in the government but have some insight as to what going on. i think are unnerved by the president, and that has loosened them up to speak more freely about things we wouldn't know about ordinarily. there is a fair amount of leaks especially in the first six months of 2017. i think that, as the president came in and folks in the government and outside the government saw how he was
operating, they saw a and -- felt a willingness and in need to come forward and provide us with information. it is never as easy as i think the reader i think sometimes thinks it is. we are not just sitting there at our desks, and the phone rings, and they say, here's the story. usually if the information comes in that way, there is something wrong with it. but at the same time, one of the other reasons we've seen so much information out there is media organizations have dedicated so many resources to this, and there is so many reporters out there trying to get information in there trying to get information on what has become getumbers game -- information on what has become the numbers game. and with people more willing and more motivated to speak, i think that is why we saw what we did. margaret: greg, just talk about it a little bit. greg: yeah, i think there are two kind of overlapping issues or factors here that we have seen play out. mike mentioned them. one is, he is right, there are people in all parts of government who are dismayed at times at what they see happening to these institutions, and they -- you know, in times
of very pure motivation, sometimes less than pure motivations want to call attention to. i don't think trump himself because of the way he approaches the job doesn't engender a lot of loyalty. right? this is a president who appoints fingers of blame across his administration all the time, including his closest aides. and they, many of them lasted a very short time in the white house, and others probably can't be certain that they will last much longer. there is not a -- i think that is a big contrast with the obama administration which i think demanded and expected an internal intense
michael: first of all, i think that mueller is someone who has never been press friendly hymns -- himself. he never had the need to have it on his side. he put that out on friday, you can't help but think, was mueller trying to make an argument to show to the public or prove to the public that there really was something here despite what the president says or what republicans say? he appreciates that, but he was never someone who was press friendly. he is basically the opposite of comey. i think they understand they are under a microscope in a way no one has been before. i think they felt a bit burned initially by some of the stories about how there were so many democrats there. they saw that as a problem. i think they have done everything they can. i mean, they have the whole issue with the agent moved off the case for his text messages. and i think they know that the slightest mistake will destroy them or will be used and exploited against them.
and because of that, they have been very disciplined. i was watching over the weekend -- there was some stuff on television about the starr investigation. and in that case, you had folks going into the grand jury coming out to the in the courthouse that wasn't the stuff the stuff they had told the grand jury. the star witness was more out than mueller has been. maybe it is because of the counterintelligence matter or the security, but it is a pretty big lockbox. for example the indictment on friday, we knew nothing. we knew the information had been out there, but i haven't seen any reporting that mueller was looking specifically into that issue. margaret: do you think that is just the ethos of the office, or is that a directive that has been pounded in, in kind of an overt way? michael: probably both. i think the top of any institution sets the tone. i think that obama set the tone for the way his white house is going to be. i think trump sets the tone for the way his white house is going to be. i think mueller set the tone for how his investigation would be. greg: it is interesting because
you have these stylistic opposites who are in some ways adversaries. you have trump and his sort of chaos that he creates around him, and then you have the opposite with mueller. trump, you know, it is hard to know if this is a source of frustration for him, but you can see he likes to drag adversaries onto the stage or onto the spotlight with him where he can lash at them on twitter or in public remarks.
he did this with comey, and they continue to sort of go back and forth with one another on twitter. mueller doesn't present that kind of target for trump. he is not visible. there is nothing for trump to really grab onto. margaret: it is a huge presence, but it is kind of an invisible one. michael: mueller basically gave a graduation speech after he had been scheduled, and i don't think he has made a public statement since then. all of the statements have been in court filing. there was maybe one or two put out about different things, but you can't find him. margaret: greg, did the indictments on friday surprise you in any way? what, what was your reaction? greg: i had a series of reactions because initially it was just diving in and seeing this was it. the material in a way altered our understanding of the big picture of the russian interference. i think it gives us a different timeline that goes back even earlier than we understood in
terms of when this operation, this russian active measures campaign, is conceived, when they are taking their initial steps, and how early they had identified denigrating hillary clinton as a main objective. trump is right when he tweets, this is all happening and coming into existence before he's even declared his candidacy. him and him that doesn't mean him they don't turn their efforts towards supporting him when he does arrive. but you know, he's right that their initial objective was to sow discord and to take on and to go after hillary, and that happens earlier than i think some of us really understood. margaret: michael, you've broken so many stories this past year, and i prefer to you in a column as the ubiquitous michael schmidt because you are at the center of so many of these
things and breaking them. when you look back over the year, what, what stands out for you as a particular journalistic highlight? michael: i mean, i guess -- probably the most significant thing when i look back on it is just the story of trump asking comey to end the flynn investigation because it really sort of elevated this story to another level, and mueller was appointed right after that. and it changed the story where it wasn't just a russian collusion story. it was a story about the president's conduct in office and about his efforts to influence comey. and it was also fascinating on an interpersonal level just between comey and trump in that trump so misunderstood comey. if there is anyone who would not take to that kind of a statement and would turn it around and use it against trump, it would be comey. and the dynamic of trump asking comey for his loyalty is just such a misreading. it is such an unforced error by the president that has created this larger cloud over his
administration, not only from a legal perspective, investigation perspective, but from a human perspective i found it interesting. but for us it has been an incredible year where we see this very competitive fight with the post. and as much -- margaret: yet, we are all so friendly. [laughter] michael: in as much as that can be annoying, it pushes us to work harder, to push harder and i think it has led to better journalism. and it is -- it can be frustrating, and competitive, and such, but at the end of the day, i think we are both pushing each other to do the best work we can.
margaret: greg, let's talk a little bit about the post's outstanding story that you are -- were one of the authors of back in june to elect a president obama's reaction to russian interference, and now we know so much more than we did then about it. and there was a quote in that story that became sort of a famous all on its own. can you take us through that a little bit? i don't know if i can reconstruct it as well as you can. talk about that a little bit. greg: yeah, i think for us this was the story that we did on the obama administration's struggle to deal in real time with the russian interference as it was unfolding was important on a couple levels.
one, i think it was critical to take a look at this moment in history and try to, try to capture from as many sources and as many angles as possible how this happens, what the internal thinking was, why certain decisions were made and so forth. but also, when i look back now, you know, we in the press are -- are often accused at this moment of being too critical of trump or obsessed with trump or just focused on trump, and here is another where we put a lot of reporting resources to something that happened on obama's watch. i sometimes point to that as an example of how the "washington post" and the new york times and all great journalistic organizations are subjecting people of power, of all varieties to meaningful scrutiny, and that is at the core part of our job. but that part you mentioned really captured, you know, the second i heard the official use those words, which -- margaret: which were? greg: which were, we sort of choked.
i think it captured a lot of the feelings of almost everybody we interviewed, including members of the obama administration who work involved in this, who, you know, presented this unified front in public. we did the best we could. we did, we handled it absolutely right. there was nothing else we could've done. but when you sat down with them, they often express something along these lines. this was just the best version of that expression. margaret: and did you know when you heard that it would be as, as, as explosive as it turned out to be? greg: i thought that that might be the case when we were having a meeting at the post and the planning stages, and how to package the story and there were editors and others making the case that should be the headline across the top of the page. i think we sort of smartly pulled back from that. that would've been a bit
over-the-top. margaret: people found it. ok, good. we have time for questions, and we have about 10 minutes for that. so i would love to get the roving mic, if anybody would like to jump in here, it would be great. there is one. >> do you anticipate or see any signs of an impending crackdown on whistleblowers and leakers in the administration? and do you think this'll be an issue over the next few months or years? greg: i will let you go. michael: the attorney general has said this plainly and publicly that they are going after this issue has -- as aggressively as possible. the president has clearly stated this as a top priority, publicly on twitter and such. it is obvious that he is obsessed with leaks. there are, i think maybe there is a number floating around that there is three doesn't leak
-- three dozen leak investigations right now. government is looking at changing the guidelines to how the justice department could be more aggressive in coming after leakers. all the signs including the press conference sessions had about this show that they are moving in that direction. these cases are incredibly difficult ones to make. but the thing that i often come back to in my mind about this is, despite all of this chatter about crackdowns on leaks, it doesn't seem to have deterred folks from speaking. i think folks understand the consequences of speaking. they knew it before the president made an issue of it, and i think that they still feel a need to come forward to talk. greg: i mean, i think that this past year, as we have spent a lot of time internally talking
about protection of sources, comparing notes on reporters on how we go about that, trying to agree as parts of a broader team, covering national security, you know, make sure everybody's doing everything we can. obviously you know, we are not the only ones. it's amazing how many sources now light up on signal, the app on our phones. you know, mike just sort of outlined those that are coming after us, but there are counter
measures that many of us are also taking all the time. >> thanks. as an investigative journalist, i know sometimes we go after things with a bottom line in mind. it might not work out, but we have that suspicion. i'm wondering, what is your bottom line here? are you looking at, if this whole thing affected the outcome of the elections? is that a bottom line for you, or are you in your minds or in your teams' minds just going where it is leading? where do you have a bottom line? greg: i would say for us it is more of the latter category. i don't think there is an outcome here that any of us sees that is clear or that we are driving towards. there is obvious questions that we are all pursuing. but i don't think that there is -- i certainly don't have a bottom line, and perhaps others at the post are focused on trying to determine, especially after this indictment on friday and how much new detail we have about the extent of the russian effort to influence voters, and
actually being able to point to specific places on the map and where this has been happening in the united states, it is a question that i think is important to look out at again. to what extent can you determine whether the russian interference affected votes? no, but i think we are, as a group, there is just a million questions that we are after all the time. margaret: michael, unless you have a very different -- michael: i like that one. margaret: who else? back here. >> as a government contractor, i take my security clearance very seriously. i was wondering if you could speculate on what may have been a week or so from now when some of these interim clearances are going to be pulled, and how is our government going to function in the discord between kelly and what trump wants to do?
margaret: michael, do you want handle? michael: you are worried that the white house will see disfunction? [laughter] >> interim clearance and probably opposed to what should be done in policy. michael: we're watching that closely because this puts the ball in trump's court so to speak. if we are serious about enforcing this policy kelly outlined that would restrict those who only have temporary clearances from access to the most sensitive stuff, that hits a lot of people in this white house. the question is, are they really going to do that? in our story, one of my colleagues broke that story, immediately points to somebody like jared kushner.
will trump, who can, sort of preempt this process and extend full clearance to him in order that kushner and others get these clearances that they need, or is he concerned about any political blowback for taking that step? because if he does that, that is not going to be appreciated by the national security apparatus in washington that takes these issues really seriously. margaret: right here. >> over the past year, in addition to the great work you have done and printed online, we have come to see you on cable news channels regularly, sometimes talking about stories for we have read the stories. michael, especially i understand. i'm wondering, is there a danger from a journalist perspective in that, how do you prepare for it? how are you careful not to say more than you should say is a -- as a journalist? greg: i would love it if michael would spend all of his time on
tv. i think he is perfect for it. i would encourage that. michael: tv is dangerous. so i am never going to go on tv and talk about a story until the story goes online, and i'm not even going to tell the network that we have anything coming until it goes. and usually when i am going online, i am basically reciting what i have written online. in many ways it is a good advertisement for ourselves. it takes our product. it shows you who i am and what we are doing. and you know, television can be a dangerous place. if you make a slight mistake, you can really imperil yourself very quickly. but at the same time you can reach a lot of folks and bring to them the reporting that we are very proud about. and it can be a very powerful medium for us. at the end of the day, the most important thing that i can do and do do is report. television is secondary. that is the icing. you really have to go out and do
the groundwork. if you're not out there with stuff like that in your religious going on tv, i don't think as reporters that is not where we want to be. margaret: this might be the last. >> a question about another big story. michael schmidt, correct me if i am wrong, but i believe you were the first to report about hillary clinton's having a private server. can you tell us how you got that story? michael: i, i had the pleasure of covering the benghazi committee that no one in the washington bureau really wanted to cover. in the course of doing that, i learned about the fact that mrs. clinton had produced a significant amount of emails to the state department, and i was, you know, sounded pretty interesting at the time. i did not think when i wrote the story -- obviously when you write, you don't know what the implications will be, but our
job is not to manage those implications. i knew from a very early time after the i wrote the story in march of 2015. i went home for passover that year, and my mother, who is a good new york democrat, said -- when jeb bush is president, we will have you to blame. [laughing] michael: so i knew early on that to a lot of folks that were not going to like that story, but it's not really my job. my job is to follow the facts. margaret: didn't play out exactly that way. ok, well, thank you both very much. this is great, and we will move on to the next exciting part of the event. thank you. [applause] john: i am john darnton, and i
would like to welcome you all to this event. a special thanks to our panelists for a discussion that was illuminating, penetrating, and even a bit worrisome. greg miller, michael schmidt, and margaret sullivan, thank you. as dr. cline noted, we decided to hold our announcement of the awards in a public forum this year because we want to underline, emphasize quality journalism and how important it really is in this tense time. and i think we can all agree that 2017 was an extraordinary year for news both at home and
abroad, and we can also agree that news outfits are having a tough time of it. the financial pressures are unrelenting, and partisan attacks coming from all sides. so it is good to just take a moment to celebrate outstanding work that is being done. it's a reminder that an independent and feisty press is a bulwark to our democracy. so we have 12 polk judges. as dr. cline mentioned we went over 485 submissions. we whittled them down to first 90, then finally a winning 17. in three categories we decided to have shared awards. that's because, frankly, it became just impossible to select one over the other. we thought it was not just futile but in a way almost unfair. so here goes. now if you have questions
afterward, i'll try to answer them. the winners for best work done overnight, 2017, the george polk winners, the first category is a special award category. and it is shared by the staff of the "new york times" and the staff of the "washington post" for revealing ties between trump campaign officials and the kremlin connected russians that gave rise to the robert mueller investigation. foreign reporting, iona craig, "the intercept," for documenting the destruction and civilian casualties of a covert navy seal raid on a remote village in yemen. national reporting -- again this is now a shared award -- jodi
kantor and megan kewy of the ronanork times," and farrow of the new yorker for exposing a decades-long sexual predation of the movie producer harvey weinstein and his campaign to cover it up. local reporting, melissa seguro, buzzfeed, for drawing attention to innocent men framed for murder by a chicago police detective in stories that led to their release from prison. immigration reporting. this again is a shared award. maria perez, the naples daily news, for exposing the practice of florida companies hiring undocumented workers in dangerous jobs to avoid compensating them when injured. in some cases by arranging their deportation.
and also to antonio farzen and joseph flaherty of the phoenix new times for revealing that motel 6's in phoenix provided nightly guest rosters to ice agents investigating undocumented immigrants. financial reporting, the international consortium of investigative journalists for mining a trove of 13.4 million records to reveal how corporate giants and prominent individuals used financial manipulations to evade taxes. medical reporting, nina martin of propublic, rene montagne of npr for explaining the reasons and portraying the tragedies behind an alarming increase in
maternal deaths in pregnancy and delivery in the u.s. political reporting, stephanie mccrum and and beth reinhard of the "washington post" for digging into the past of senate candidate roy moore of alabama to disclose on the record accounts of sexual assault upon a 14-year-old girl and his pursuit of other teenagers. magazine reporting, ben taub, the new yorker, for showing the humanitarian devastation caused by the shrinkage of lake chad and underlining the connection of ecological disaster to famine and armed uprising. photography, to adam dean and thomas munita of the "new york times" for capturing the plight of rohingya fleeing burning
villages in myanmar, and pouring into woefully unequipped refugee camps in bangladesh. national television reporting, to ellie reeve of vice news for on the scene, up close coverage of the charlottesville protests that probed the motivation and tactics of white nationalist leaders. foreign television reporting, nima elbogir and raja razek, cnn, for uncovering a hidden, modern day slave auction of african refugees in libya. public service, to david begnot of cbs news for capturing the destructive power of hurricane maria in puerto rico and documenting how limited aid from
the federal and territorial governments delayed the island's recovery. and finally an award in commentary to gail collins of the "new york times" for columns of satiric wit and neighborly wisdom that probed the oddities of american politics and social mores. so those are the awards. i suggest we give all of our winners a collective round of applause. [applause] and if you do have any questions, i will try very it -- very hard to answer them. if not, i guess we are all agreed that they are the best ones possible. [laughter] i would like to note one thing, which is unusual for us. this year we had an unusual selection of online news outfit.
never before have we honored or thews or buzz feed intercept for their work. i am not sure what this means, but i think it means either they are moving into the mainstream or we are kind of broadening our net. in any case, i think it is true that they are having more and more influence over the daily news. ok. thank you all very much for coming. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] c-span's "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that impact you.
coming up this morning we will discuss u.s. foreign relations and the trump with former obama administration's a department policy planning direct your jake sullivan. we will talk about rebuilding the nation's infrastructure with , presidentlack and and ceo of the national associated builders and contractors. and we are live in oklahoma city, oklahoma for the next stop on the 50 capitals tour to talk about the key policy issues in the state. be sure to watch "washington journal" live at 7:00 eastern this morning. joined the discussion. announcer: this morning, a look at the economic impact and cost of global cybercrime in 2018. we are from the center for strategic and international studies at 8:00 a.m. eastern on c-span 2. announcer: former florida senator bob graham is part of a discussion looking at how to improve civics education and prepare students to become
more politically engaged citizens. posted by the sender for american progress and generation citizen, it is live at 10:00 a.m. eastern here on c-span. announcer: palestinian president mahmoud abbas spoke to the un security council in new york on tuesday. he called for international peace conference to be convened later in 2018 to address the israeli-palestinian conflict. he also criticized the trump administration's decision to move the american embassy in israel to jerusalem. u.s. ambassador to the u.n. nikki haley responded directly to the speech. this portion of the event is about an hour. >> i now give before to his excellency